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Noob to hydro, first attempt at NFT system


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Old 02-02-2016, 10:34 AM
brandonbelew brandonbelew is offline
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Default Noob to hydro, first attempt at NFT system

Hello everyone,

I'm fairly new to gardening, and very new to hydro. The wife and I are engaged in a friendly competition. She will be growing strawberries outside, I am growing them inside with hydro.

Here is my NFT system, this picture was taken day 2 after planting my bare root plants sourced on amazon.

I'm running 3 led lights currently, two 5w and one 12w and i'm getting between 94 and 100 lux at each plant.

I'm using 24-12-32 strawberry fertilizer, mixed in a 17 gallon reservoir.

I started doing daily logs on my setup here: http://brandonbelew.webfactional.com/ if anyone is interested.

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Old 02-02-2016, 11:15 AM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Hello brandonbelew,
Your lighting is severely lacking. You might be OK if you used one of those 12 watt bulbs over each plant, and didn't place it more than 6 inches above the plant. But at this point, my money is on your wife's plants simply because her natural light (sunlight) is much better than what you currently have.
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Old 02-02-2016, 11:22 AM
brandonbelew brandonbelew is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GpsFrontier View Post
Hello brandonbelew,
Your lighting is severely lacking. You might be OK if you used one of those 12 watt bulbs over each plant, and didn't place it more than 6 inches above the plant. But at this point, my money is on your wife's plants simply because her natural light (sunlight) is much better than what you currently have.
If I added 2 - 4' t5 fluorescent grow lights hanging a few feet above and use the led's as fill, do you think that would be sufficient light?

Also that picture was taken at night, 6' in front of the nft setup is a window facing east. So during the day it's also getting some natural light mixed with the led's. I run the lights from 6am to 10pm.

Thanks!

Last edited by brandonbelew; 02-02-2016 at 11:44 AM. Reason: adding bit about natural light
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Old 02-02-2016, 12:08 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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If I added 2 - 4' t5 fluorescent grow lights hanging a few feet above and use the LED's as fill, do you think that would be sufficient light?
No,. First, like LED's the light intensity (lumens/lux, ect..) drops significantly beyond 2 feet. Second strawberry plants are fruiting plants and need more light than non fruiting plants. You might be able to get by with a twin bulb T5 light fixture 6 inches above each row, but I still think for fruiting plants that may be lacking.

I think your biggest lighting issue are the lighting choice and coverage ability. If you placed the rows side by side instead of on top of each other, you can get much better coverage. For the LED, I would still think you would at least need one of those 12 watt bulbs per plant, six inches above the plant. But the close proximity should increase the light intensity at the plants, and ultimately yield better results simply by the different configuration. You could also place a reflective surface underneath to bounce residual light back up.

Again I would still expect to need a twin bulb T5 light fixture for each row, but again the close proximity will increase the light intensity at the plants for all the rows. Bottom line though, watt for watt, HID lighting will give you better coverage, and better results/light intensity for fruiting plants. But that's just my 2 cents.
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Old 02-02-2016, 12:41 PM
brandonbelew brandonbelew is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GpsFrontier View Post
No,. First, like LED's the light intensity (lumens/lux, ect..) drops significantly beyond 2 feet. Second strawberry plants are fruiting plants and need more light than non fruiting plants. You might be able to get by with a twin bulb T5 light fixture 6 inches above each row, but I still think for fruiting plants that may be lacking.

I think your biggest lighting issue are the lighting choice and coverage ability. If you placed the rows side by side instead of on top of each other, you can get much better coverage. For the LED, I would still think you would at least need one of those 12 watt bulbs per plant, six inches above the plant. But the close proximity should increase the light intensity at the plants, and ultimately yield better results simply by the different configuration. You could also place a reflective surface underneath to bounce residual light back up.

Again I would still expect to need a twin bulb T5 light fixture for each row, but again the close proximity will increase the light intensity at the plants for all the rows. Bottom line though, watt for watt, HID lighting will give you better coverage, and better results/light intensity for fruiting plants. But that's just my 2 cents.
Ok thank you. I'll look at building arms that come up next to each row and hold a double lamp t5 about 6-12" above each row. Or at modifying my setup to make it flat on the top. I found a 5 pack of 6400K t5 bulbs on amazon for $25.

The reason I went with a lean-to style was I figured I could add more rows. I have 3 right now, only using 2 and could add 2-3 more. But with the lighting requirements this complex, I might as well just flatten it out and make it a 4'x4' table. Downside is the natural light from the window across the room won't reach the plants closest to the wall.
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Old 02-02-2016, 12:56 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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I might as well just flatten it out and make it a 4'x4' table
That's kind of my point. 3 twin bulb T5 light fixtures (one for each row of plants) using 6 T5 bulbs (52 watts ea) is 150 watts of electricity. One 150 watt HID bulb will cover a 4x4 area and with better coverage and light intensity. In other words for the same electricity, you get better coverage and intensity.
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Old 02-02-2016, 03:30 PM
brandonbelew brandonbelew is offline
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I might still make it a flat table at some point. It shouldn't be very hard to convert it. Just need to buy a 2x4 and do some cutting. I went ahead and ran out at lunch and picked up 2 - 2 bulb 4' T5 fixtures and ordered a 5 pack of 6400K 4850 lumen grow lights from amazon. I'll position them a few inches from the plants and either use my led's for other plants or just added light. I don't plan on using my third tube at the moment, i'll add another fixture then if I do.
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Old 02-03-2016, 06:34 AM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Hello brandonbelew,
I'm sorry, I Just needed to make a major correction to my last post. I could have just edited the post, but it's a major correction. I said that 6 T5's (52 watts each) would use 150 watts of electricity. But in reality 6x52 is over 300 watts. Double what I said in my last post. A typical 4 foot T5 bulb is rated at 52 watts (32 watts for a foot long T8). So a 4 foot long twin T5 bulb fixture uses 104 watts. Times 3= 312 watts. The rest of what I said remains the same. In fact you could use two 100 watt HID bulbs, and still use 1/3 less electricity.

Here is an electricity cost calculator so you can calculate the monthly costs:

http://www.handymath.com/cgi-bin/ele...i?submit=Entry

All you need is to find out is how much you pay per kilowatt hour, and that will be on your electric bill. Make sure to include the surcharges. The national average is 10 cents per kilowatt hour. Then fill in the wattage used, and how long it will be on per day. Then multiply the daily cost by 30 for the monthly cost.

Calculating at the national average of 10 cents per kilowatt hour

312 watts, on for 18 hours a day= $0.56 per day
$0.56 per day x30 days= $16.80 per month

A 150 watt HID light will provide better light intensity for the same space (4 foot x 4 foot space, about 2 feet above the plants), but even calculating for two 100 watt bulbs (200 watts) you still save $6 in electricity a month.

200 watts, on for 18 hours a day= $0.36 per day
$0.36 per day x30 days= $10.80 per month.

That's a what I mean when I said "watt for watt HID lighting will give you better coverage, and better results/light intensity for fruiting plants"

P.S.
I'm not trying to change your mind or plans. I just wanted to correct my earlier statement, and provide some elaboration on calculating electrical costs while I'm at it.
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Old 02-03-2016, 10:11 AM
brandonbelew brandonbelew is offline
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I understood where you were getting at on the wattage. I went with the 4' flourescent tubes, but only 4 total. This year i'm only going to go with 10 plants and just have my run with the other 5 bypassed. I think i'll have a hard enough time not killing the 10 I have .

The only issue I have with the hid/hps lights is the heat put out by them compared to led/fluorescent.

I think my light situation will be resolved once the bulbs come in tomorrow. My original statement of 94-100 lux at each plant was wrong as well. I was using a Vernier Light Probe and had never used it before, and was holding it wrong.

The plants, well most of them, seemed to be doing great with the LED's as they were, at least at this stage of life. So hopefully with the new lights they'll do even better.

What i'm battling now is I appear to be losing a couple plants. One of them had a couple offshoots with leaves yesterday, and today one had died. I clipped it off. Another one just doesn't seem to be taking in nutrients. I see no new root growth on it and it's limped over and dying as well.

This is the one that I don't see new root growth on and is not perking up, picture taken last night.


This one just lost one of it's branches



Overall the plants seem to be growing though, here is a comparison from Day 1 to Day 3.



Day 3
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Old 02-05-2016, 11:03 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Hello brandonbelew,

Quote:
The only issue I have with the hid/hps lights is the heat put out by them compared to led/fluorescent.
Just to clarify, HID (High Intensity Discharge), Refers to and Includes both MH (Metal Halide) and HPS (High Pressure Sodium)
P.S. I didn't include any of the previous advertising links. The forum administrators use software to automatically turn some keywords into advertisements the first time those words show up in a post.


I know, a lot of people are fearful of HID lighting because of heat. But if you think about it, wattage is not only a measurement of electricity, but watts are also a measurement of heat like BTU's are a measurement of heat. In fact electric heaters are rated in watts (the electrical conversion from electricity to heat energy), and most electrical heaters are rated at 1,500 watts. More than that would blow a typical household 15 amp breaker. Watts are directly related to amps. If you don't know the watts used by an electrical device, just multiply the amps by volts to get the watts.

Examples
115 volts x 3.5 amps= 402 watts
120 volts x 12.5 amps= 1,500 watts
120 volts x 0.57 amps= 68.4 watts
110 volts x 4.35 amps= 478.5 watts

If your using more wattage in florescent, the florescent are actually putting out more heat. The difference is with florescent bulbs the heat is spread over a wider area because of the 4 foot bulbs, so people often think they are cooler. The heat is more concentrated in one spot with HID making it seem hotter. The 4 foot long T5 bulbs are rated at 52 watts, (32 watts for T8's). Typical HID bulbs are 400 watts. So naturally 52 watts is 1/8 the amount of heat, (twin bulb 104 watts total 1/4 the heat), and when you spread that 52 watts out over a 4 foot area it seems even cooler. But over all 300 watts of florescent will put out twice the heat of 150 watts of HID. Two twin bulb T5's= 208 watts, that's still more than than a single 150 watt HID light, or about the same as two 100 watt HID bulbs. Florescent lights also need to be within 6-8 inches of the plant, HID can easily be 2-4 feet away. So while the heat from HID is more concentrated in one small space, that HID light (heat source) can be 6-8 times farther away from the plants.

Another thing to consider I touched on earlier is blowing the breakers. If your going to need multiple light sources, you want to make sure your not going to blow the breakers when you include other things like water and air pumps, fans etc. So you want to add up all the amps that will be on the same circuit breaker, and not exceed about 12.5 amps for a 15 amp breaker, or 17.5 for a 20 amp breaker. Otherwise you run the risk of blowing breakers. If you need more than that, you'll have to figure a way to split what you need between two or more circuits.

Quote:
The plants, well most of them, seemed to be doing great with the LED's as they were, at least at this stage of life. So hopefully with the new lights they'll do even better.
The bare root plants will grow in the dark the size they are. I bought bare root strawberry plants last year. I wasn't quite ready to plant them when they arrived, so I just left them in the box. I was surprised to find they were already growing in the box in the dark. When I opened the box they were already as big, and some even bigger than the ones in your pictures.

Quote:
What i'm battling now is I appear to be losing a couple plants. One of them had a couple offshoots with leaves yesterday, and today one had died. I clipped it off. Another one just doesn't seem to be taking in nutrients. I see no new root growth on it and it's limped over and dying as well.
1. Did you wash the dirt off the roots well before transplanting them into the system?
2. What is the water and air temperatures (day and night).
3. What nutrients are you using?
4. How are you mixing them (what ratios)?
5. What is the pH?
6. What does the water look like? Is it clear or cloudy?
7. What does the water smell like? Does it smell musty?
8. What is the water level in the tubes? Is the water touching the baskets?
9. Are you running the water pump 24/7 or on a timer?
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Old 02-08-2016, 02:39 PM
brandonbelew brandonbelew is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GpsFrontier View Post



1. Did you wash the dirt off the roots well before transplanting them into the system?
2. What is the water and air temperatures (day and night).
3. What nutrients are you using?
4. How are you mixing them (what ratios)?
5. What is the pH?
6. What does the water look like? Is it clear or cloudy?
7. What does the water smell like? Does it smell musty?
8. What is the water level in the tubes? Is the water touching the baskets?
9. Are you running the water pump 24/7 or on a timer?

1.) I rinsed and gently massaged the roots to remove as much dirt as possible.

2.) Not sure on that, I haven't been monitoring. But it's indoor, along an interior wall, and my house doesn't drop below 72

3/4) Following the instructions on the nutrients, I think it was 4Tbps per 5 gallons or something similar. I have 10 gallons, so 8Tbps total. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...ilpage_o06_s00

5.) around 6.5

6.) Fairly clear

7.) No noticeable smell

8.) I try to keep it just below the bottom of the basket.

9.) Water is 24/7


The plant that was dying seems to have made a decent come back. I clipped the dead stalk off down to the crown. Over the last couple days it has sprouted new and seems to be happy. All plants seem to be growing well and putting out a fair amount of new white roots.
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Old 02-08-2016, 07:24 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Hello brandonbelew,

Quote:
2.) Not sure on that, I haven't been monitoring. But it's indoor, along an interior wall, and my house doesn't drop below 72
You'll need to start checking. I use a simple $2 glass aquarium thermometer. Water and air temps are important.

Quote:
3/4) Following the instructions on the nutrients, I think it was 4Tbps per 5 gallons or something similar. I have 10 gallons, so 8Tbps total. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...ilpage_o06_s00
I couldn't find a link to the manufactures online website, and/or their mixing instructions..

Quote:
6.) Fairly clear
Did the nutrient solution begin translucent, then get somewhat cloudy, or have they always been somewhat cloudy from as soon as you mixed them?

Quote:
8.) I try to keep it just below the bottom of the basket.
Are the plants roots already hanging out of the baskets? If not, how are the roots getting moisture if the water level is below the baskets?
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Old 02-08-2016, 07:31 PM
brandonbelew brandonbelew is offline
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Originally Posted by GpsFrontier View Post
Hello brandonbelew,


You'll need to start checking. I use a simple $2 glass aquarium thermometer. Water and air temps are important.


I couldn't find a link to the manufactures online website, and/or their mixing instructions..


Did the nutrient solution begin translucent, then get somewhat cloudy, or have they always been somewhat cloudy from as soon as you mixed them?


Are the plants roots already hanging out of the baskets? If not, how are the roots getting moisture if the water level is below the baskets?
I'll start monitoring the temperature. I didn't notice a change in how the water looked, but it's in a black container in a dark room. So it's kind of hard to tell. It looks just like normal flowing water going through the tubes.

I had several of the old roots through the bottom of the containers on each plant to get them started. They have new white roots coming off of them and there are more roots coming out of the bottom/sides of the cups now as well.
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Old 02-08-2016, 08:11 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Hello brandonbelew,
The reason I asked whether the nutrients were translucent or clowdy is because that's often a sign something is growing in it. Most nutrients are translucent, but I'm not familiar with what your using, so I don't know what's normal with those. Also, I can't give any advice about the nutrients because I don't know their website. So I cant tell if their a complete nutrient, designed specifically for hydroponic plants, how they should be mixed, etc. etc..


As long as the roots have access to water. You would be surprised how many people build a NFT system, put plants in it and forget the roots actually need to be able to reach the water. I just wanted to make sure you weren't having that problem. You'll want to lower the water level as the roots get longer, strawberry plants don't like wet feet.


P.S.
I forgot to mention, I would probably lower the pH a little to 6.0
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Old 02-12-2016, 11:10 PM
brandonbelew brandonbelew is offline
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We had a RO system installed yesterday, so now I have nice clean water for my plants!

That said it's time for a nutrient change. You had asked awhile back about the nutrients, and unfortunately it doesn't say whats in it on the bag. It does say it has the required calcium nitrate and magnesium sulfate though.

The mixing instructions are:

Seedlings: 24 grams per 5 gallons, adjust pH to 6.5-6.8, conductivity 800+source water.

Mature: 29 grams per 5 gallons, adjust pH to 6.5-6.8, conductivity 1200+source water.

Now the question is, what would you consider seedling, and what would you consider mature?

The attached picture is from a day or so ago.

Thanks!
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Old 02-13-2016, 02:45 AM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Hello brandonbelew,

Quote:
You had asked awhile back about the nutrients, and unfortunately it doesn't say whats in it on the bag. It does say it has the required calcium nitrate and magnesium sulfate though.
The package should have a label that states the "guaranteed analysis," but I didn't ask for a link to the nutrient manufactures website and mixing chart to determine what is in it. I have specific questions about them that you wouldn't be able to answer withough't a lot of back and forth, so it's much easier if I can just go to their website directly myself. Bottom line I don't know anything about those nutrients. I don't even know if their a complete nutrient, I don't know if they are actually designed specifically for hydroponically grown plants, I don't know if they are supposed to be organic, I don't know if their designed for vegetative growth, fruiting growth, or continuously fruiting plants, I don't know if they require additives, etc. etc..

Since you are having a problem, one of the first things to look at are the nutrients your using and how your using them. If I can't do that I can't rule possible problems related to nutrients out, or even give any advice. All I know is that you say 29 grams per 5 gallons is supposed to be full strength. That's not telling me much at all.

Quote:
Now the question is, what would you consider seedling, and what would you consider mature?
That's like saying when is the point a person goes from being an infant, to being an adult. Theirs a big range in-between. And if 29 grams per 5 gallons is full strength, then 24 grams per 5 gallons is about 83% strength. Would you feed 83% of a full meal for an adult to an infant?

P.S.
6.5-6.8 pH is not only to small of a range, it's also to high for 80% of the plants. If you were growing hot peppers the pH would be OK being that high. But your growing strawberry's. Plants can't absorb and metabolize nutrients/mineral salts properly unless the pH is in range, when the pH is on the far end of the range the plants can't absorb and metabolize the nutrients they need to grow and be healthy very well. 6.5 is the top end of the pH range for strawberries, 6.0 is right in the middle of the pH range for strawberries. 6.8 is outside the pH range for strawberries. If you want them to be healthy, you should try for a pH right in the middle of the pH range for strawberries (6.0). That gives the pH room to fluctuate either way and still be in range.
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Old 02-13-2016, 10:06 AM
brandonbelew brandonbelew is offline
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The bag doesn't have any detailed information, or a link. It just has the mixing instructions and the purchase from amazon link, and an email address.

Since my plants are flowering and purchased as bare root instead of seed, i'll consider these mature and mix full strength for this go around. They don't appear to be showing any signs of over feeding.

I think one of the issues I had with my first couple weeks was the nutrients didn't fully dissolve. I just dumped them into the reservoir as powder and expected them to dissolve. This time i'm dissolving them in a gallon of water, shaking occasionally.

Is there an affordable strawberry nutrient that you recommend?
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Old 02-13-2016, 07:07 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Hello brandonbelew,
1. If the nutrient maker doesn't have a website and/or online mixing chart, and the only place they sell them is on amazon. I wouldn't consider them reliable nutrients. Their most likely made by some guy in his basement and he sells them on amazon (probably e-bay as well). Amazon is not a manufacture, their a collection of independent sellers like e-bay, the only difference is Amazon doesn't do auctions, and amazon has warehouses they store and ship the sellers products from. Amazon doesn't buy the products like stores do, they only store them in their warehouse, and when one sells amazon pays the seller for that one (less amazons commission of coarse). While legitimate company's sell products on amazon and e-bay, anyone can as well. The difference is legitimate company's sell their products in regular stores as well and have websites.

2. Those plants aren't mature yet. Their not seedlings, but their not mature. Like I already stated there is a big range between seedling and mature. If you expect plants to fall into either one category (seedling) or the other (mature), your sadly mistaken. Just like with my infant/adult analogy, you wouldn't go from feeding a growing person baby food one day to a stake dinner with all the trimmings the next. Nor would you feed the infant a stake dinner from day one and skip the whole baby food steep. You gradually increase the food as they grow. You do the same thing with plants.

3.
Quote:
i'll consider these mature and mix full strength for this go around.
First, not only is mixing nutrients full strength for small plants a waste of nutrients, but mixing them full strength even for mature plants should only be done under certain circumstances and for certain plants. Only mature, heavy feeders in cool conditions need full strength. For mature, mid range feeders 70-80% strength is better than full strength. Mature light feeders, 50-60% strength. With a PPM range of between 1260-1540 for mature strawberry plants (that assumes a mild climate), I would consider strawberry's on the low end of mid range.

Here is a direct quote
Nutrients - Over and Under Use, by Dr. Lynette Morgan

"When the EC is being run to high for a particular plant, this will show as visible symptoms within the crop. A high EC, effectively puts the plants under `water stress' since the plant cells begin to lose water, back into the more concentrated nutrient solution surrounding the roots. As a result the first sign of nutrient `overuse' is plant wilting, even when supplied with sufficient nutrient solution. If the high EC conditions re not too severe, the plants will adjust to these conditions and you may see growth which is `hard' in appearance - often a darker green then usually, with shorter plants and smaller leaves."

4. You do have to fully dissolve the nutrients. But you cant dissolve 5+ gallons worth of nutrients in one gallon of water then add it to the rest of the water. Doing so makes a super concentrated solution before you dilute it to it's normal concentration. When the nutrients are super concentrated they molecules tend to bond with each other, once they bond they become useless to the plants because the plants can't absorb them anymore.

5. I would use verti-gro nutrients for strawberry's, specifically the Hydroponic Plant Nutrient Combo (also known as Fcombo).
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Old 02-16-2016, 09:49 AM
brandonbelew brandonbelew is offline
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Thank you for your help. I ordered the vertigrow nutrients and will change them out once they come in.

I think i'll also slightly dilute my nutrients until the new nutrients come in. I do have darker green leaves and shorter plants, well at least on some of them. The plant that was basically dead a week or so ago is the one doing the best and gets larger each day.

Last night I changed the layout of my setup, I converted it to a table top instead of a lean-to style. I need to adjust the lights some more but I do see more coverage this way than the previous.

I also added a heater to my nutrients to keep them at 68 degrees and added a 12" air stone.

I've been having a hell of a time getting the water level right on my second tube. I had it at the perfect level last night and it seemed to be staying then I heard a gurgling sound and checked and it was empty. Tweaked it for an hour or so until it maintained it's level. I think the issue was I had the water turned off to my unused tube and the pressure was maybe erratic.

Last edited by brandonbelew; 02-16-2016 at 09:54 AM.
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Old 02-16-2016, 05:46 PM
GpsFrontier GpsFrontier is offline
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Hello brandonbelew,

Any drain/overflow line needs to have air coming in from above the water line. I attached some examples. Air pockets can form in the overflow line causing all kinds of weird things to happen. If there is a air intake in the overflow line above the water level, it allows the water to flow down freely.

Have you ever stuck a straw in a drink and put your thumb over the top opening, then pulled the straw out of the drink. The liquid stays in the straw, as soon as you take your thumb off the top allowing air in the tube, the liquid flows freely out the bottom. By adding an air intake in the overflow line you accomplish the same effect.

P.S.
So what was the temperature of the water before you added the heater? You never did say, you just said you weren't monitoring it and didn't know.

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Last edited by GpsFrontier; 02-16-2016 at 05:52 PM.
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